Remember when the iPhone was first released, 11 years ago? We gazed into its sleek, glass surface. We watched the screen adjust as we rotated the phone in our hands. In an instant, the Blackberry looked quaint and old-fashioned. The smartphone era had arrived, and there was no turning back.
The magic continues each year. Tap or click here for the inside scoop about what the next iPhone due in a month or so will have in features.
There are ways to tinker with your device's appearance and functionality – most of them unknown to the average iPhone owner. For example, tap or click here for the steps on how to have your medical and emergency contact information show up on a locked screen. It's a smart thing to do right now.
Check out these 10 awesome ways you can customize your iPhone to your liking. Not only will they help your iPhone look better, but it will work better, too.
1. Use the hidden touchpad
There's a secret touchpad hiding out in your keyboard. Depending on your phone or tablet, there are a couple of ways to access it. On many newer iPhones, you need to press down on any key, and you will see the keyboard become blank. Now, you can move your finger around, and the cursor will move with you.
On some iPhones and iPads, you will need to hold down on the space bar to access this mode. It's a great way to move around in a document, or simply place your cursor somewhere specific in an email, text or note.
2. Spice up your Home and Lock screens
If you don't want your health and emergency information showing on your phone, try a new background. Change the appearance of your screen by going to the Settings menu, then tapping Wallpaper. Tap Choose a New Wallpaper and decide if you want to use a Dynamic, Still, or Live image. Then, select the location where you want to get the new wallpaper. You can get one from Apple's gallery, your camera roll, or download one from a website.
Finally, if you don't like the default settings for your specially chosen image, you can change that as well. For example, if it's a photo from your camera roll, you can slide it around and pinch to zoom in and out to frame it the way you want it.
Now, tap Set Lock Screen if you only want to change the wallpaper of the Lock screen. Select Set Home Screen to change just the Home screen. Or, select Set Both to change both the Lock screen and the Home screen wallpaper.
3. Set up an alternate appearance for Face ID
If you have an iPhone that supports Face ID, then you probably enjoy the convenience of unlocking your device just by looking at it. But it's annoying when Face ID doesn't recognize you. This could happen for several reasons: you're wearing readers, or a winter hat is hugging your face. With iOS 12, you can set your iPhone to recognize an alternate appearance.
Head to Settings >> Face ID & Passcode >> Set Up an Alternate Appearance and follow the instructions to teach your iPhone to recognize your different look. Just make sure you're wearing your eccentric apparel during the setup process, so the phone recognizes that funny hat as well.
4. Customize your notifications
Every time a text, call, or email comes through, we receive a notification on our home screen. Unless we switch it off, many apps will send us updates as well. There are other ways to receive these notifications.
Choose your own notification style by going to Settings, then Notifications, and select the app you want to change notifications for. Select from different Alerts, Banner Style, Sounds, and more.
Now, if you want to make receiving an email sound like a horn honking, or receiving a text message sound like a dog barking, you can. You can use these alerts to differentiate the various notifications, so you can decide which ones deserve immediate attention.
5. Grab a cool new ringtone
Everyone tends to leave the default iPhone ringtone when they could be changing it to just about anything they could ever want. Many people stick to that ringtone out of habit, or because they believe changing it is more complicated than it is.
Really, all you have to do to change your ringtone is head into Settings, then choose Sounds. From there, choose Ringtone. Select the one that best fits your personality.
If you feel like the default options just aren't cutting it, you can always head over to the iTunes Store to buy more ringtones later, whether you snag an Ariana Grande song or a Super Mario Bros. jingle.
6. Make screen time easier on your eyes
Optometrists can't stand backlit screens, and the effects of "blue light" have sparked a lot of discussion in the eye-care community. If you find yourself staring into that bright rectangle in the dark, you may want to rethink your phone use – and, at the very least, adjust the screen, so it's more ocular-friendly.
You can use a feature similar to Dark Mode instead, which should make your phone quite a bit easier on the eyes. Go to Settings, then General, then Accessibility. Once there, select Display Accommodations, and then Invert Colors.
From here you have two options, Smart Invert or Classic Invert. Smart Invert Colors reverses the colors of the display, except for images, media, and some apps that use dark color styles. Classic Invert Colors reverses the colors of the display.
Now you have a special way to give your eyes a rest. (Note: Rumors have it that true Dark Mode will finally be available for iPhones when iOS 13 is released later this year.)
7. Give Siri a fresh accent
Here's a fun way to change up your interactions with your Apple gadgets. We're all familiar with the Siri assistant's main voice, that of an American woman. You probably already knew you could change the gender, but you can also choose from a selection of different accents. The options are American, Australian, British, Irish, and South African.
Go to Settings >> Siri & Search >> Siri Voice to check out the different sounds and choose a new accent.
8. Light up the night
Not interested in plain old notifications when it comes to texting? You can forgo sounds and badges entirely and opt for a flashing light that'll go off instead (or even combine them all if you prefer).
Open Settings >> General >> Accessibility >> Hearing. From there, select the LED Flash for Alerts slider to on/green. Next time you get a notification, you'll get a flashing light greeting you.
9. Set photos for incoming calls
True, you can change the names of callers when they ring your phone, but you can also change the image of the caller. You can set a full-screen photo of the person you're getting a call from. When Mom calls, you'll see a picture of her. If you're feeling cheeky, you can add ridiculous photos: a call from your friend could bring up the image of Chewbacca.
Just tap the Phone icon, then Contacts, and choose the person you want to assign a photo to. Tap Edit, then Add Photo. Now, the next time they call you, you'll be greeted with a picture.
10. Set personalized ringtones
Just like you can set certain photos for different callers, you can also opt to set custom ringtones. You can set up something funky for your best friend, or a romantic love song for your significant other.
Tap the Phone icon >> Contacts. Then tap the person whose ringtone you're looking to change. Tap Edit and then Ringtone and select the ringtone you want to hear for that person.
You can do this for everyone in your contacts list, so you know exactly who is calling just by the ringtone. Have fun hearing your phone erupt in a customized song!
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Learn about all the latest technology on The Kim Komando Show, the nation's largest weekend radio talk show. Kim takes calls and dispenses advice on today's digital lifestyle, from smartphones and tablets to online privacy and data hacks. For her daily tips, free newsletters and more, visit her website at Komando.com.